The work is meant to give an introspective analysis of the initiatives and efforts made so far to retrack Liberia on a peaceful path. Since 1979, the foundation of peace in Liberia has been shaky. Hence, an in-depth analysis of efforts in post war Liberia is logical for the purpose of history.
No one living in Liberia during its best days of peace and progressive development in the 1960s and 1970s would have believed that we could wreck our own country. But it did happen. Great enmity befell us; we were torn apart, gnashing our teeth at one another and flexing our muscles and swords at one another. Indeed, “Things Fell Apart”. Warring factions sprang up, wicked war lords were born and destructions upon vivid destructions raged. In the end, we reached the never-promised land of divisions and animosities.
And so, great and tireless efforts have to be made to mend our broken pieces. Periscoping these efforts, reviewing their methods and results, with the view of learning and pointing out our mistakes and building new frontiers and methods of peace are the aims of this work.
For definition, a periscope is a telescopic instrument mounted on vessels and ships for viewing their environments of travel. As for us Liberians, our eyes, ears and minds as well as the situations of life we find ourselves in post-war Liberia make us an instrument of viewing our fragile peace.
And this work discusses five major components of the peace we have carved. The stakeholders have been both local and international actors. There may be other minor components, but we believe that they can be interwoven in these major ones.
III. Private Sector Initiatives And Empowerment
Hardly anywhere in the developed world is the government larger than the private sector in economic terms. The rich that is billionaires and millionaires are in the private sector. Ours is the contrast. Only those who work for governments after governments are the rich folks. Indeed it is a mystery and a wonder.
The Ellen Government has said it has made available five million US dollars through the Central Bank to the commercial banks for lending purpose to the private sector. In addition to that, the administration of Governor Mill Jones has been in the media for similar lending scheme to the marketers. But he received sharp critism from the 53rd Legislature for his stand. And the scheme has now become a history. What has gone wrong? It is also said that commercial banks like LBDI and Access Banks are in the business of lending to the private sector. But where are the funds going? Who is benefitting? Is it the same, the “rich get richer” story? Socretes once said, “You cannot do the same thing over and again and expect a different result.”
Realistically, our private sector is divided into two, namely, the Liberian Business Community and the combination of the foreign and alien business community. As long as the Liberian Business community is not well programmed and supported so that Liberians take hold and control of their economy, our peace will always be fragile. Why? This is because we live and own a rich land filled with lots of natural resources but with an impoverished huge majority. In the absence of a Liberian middle class, in the absence of a well-established Liberian business community, there will always be discontent, and discontent breeds grumble and insecurity. So here are some pieces of advice in this direction:
1. In America and most countries in Europe, farmers are subsidized by their governments heavily so that they increase food production; with increase of food production; food prices are affordable and cheap. And since a large portion of their population is farmers, a huge portion of their economy is in their pockets and hands. And this creates a national class sector of the economy, not a foreign middle class.
In our situation even after twenty-four years of a sinking economy, our farmers are not even self-supported because they do not even have the cash. So they produce little for physical survival, label the production price high and remain very poor time after time. This national economic circle breeds discontent that is never healthy for peace. Why? This is because these people do not know what they are working for.
In our post-war situation, what we need first and foremost is a well planned farming program. Our farmers need technical training; they need a well-planned and continuous cash subsidy; then markets must be created both locally and internationally for the sales of their produce. For example, how much money can a manual gari producer with such hard labour put into his pocket? Nothing much, but if his production is machine-based, his economic life will be better.
The likes of plantains, vegetables, palm oil, banana and even our country rice are not even better. As long as they are produced by manual labour and in little quantity, their prices will remain very high and their producers remain very, very poor. And this is dangerous for any peaceful co-existence.
2. Our economy is import driven rather than an export market. As long as we heavily import all of our common and major consumer goods, our economy will and not progress.
We import construction items like cement, zinc, nails etc. Then we import food items like rice, salt, chickens and other meat products. We even import rubber products although we grow many rubber trees. The damaging economic effects are in two folds. First, it creates huge capital flight. And such weight on the US dollar leads to high prices and hash economic life. The second ruining economic effects is since importation is cost effective, only the rich foreign and alien class can afford to import, not the poor national majority.
The truth is, these foreign and alien business men ought to be investors – owners of factories and industries. And if they are importers, they must be whole – sale importers and not retailers. Empowering the private sector is to create an enabling environment that will make the foreigners and alien owners of factories and industries and leaving the retailing markets with the locals. And the locals must have access to loans and credit facilities to have the requisite purchasing power from the factory and industry owners. Such is the economic recipe for empowering the private sector in our post-war situation. Anything to the contrary which will continue to put new wine in old bottle will not be healthy for our post-war peace. The logical conclusion warrants Liberians to become the owners of their economy as discussed above and empowering the Liberian private sector so as not to make them strangers economically; because as long as we have nothing to happily live for, peace can never be guaranteed.
Indeed, empowering the private sector with the philosophy of maintaining our fragile peace is to make it a private-sector economy. And that largely means creating a large Liberian business class. In two ways, this will sustain our peace:
It will transfer and sustain the economy in the hands of the Liberian people; this will reduce the economic hardship and reduce discontent.
1. And secondly, it will also guarantee the sustainability of the foreign and alien businesses. Remember that the riches of one man or a few persons among very many poor people is socially dangerous.
IV. Justice for Peace
One loud and resounding message of our post-war era is that there can be no sustained peace without unconditional justice. The reason is historical and simple: all of the woes that came upon us for twenty-four years were the explosion of grudge against one hundred and fifty-seven years – 1847 to 2004 of calculated and institutionalized injustices.
Justice must be for all; it must not be sectionalized because of secret fraternity; it must never be a commodity as it used to be and is again raising its ugly head. Justice must not be sold to the money lords.